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Strategic approach recommended if harvest is a wet one

James Browne harvesting wheat on the farm Wolngi, near Deniliquin, NSW.
Photo: Paul Jones

Growers experiencing or expecting a wet harvest are encouraged to adapt their program to harvest next season’s seed requirements and the most profitable crops as a priority.

The likelihood of a wetter than normal harvest was recently confirmed with the Bureau of Meteorology forecasting a La Nina weather event.

Wet conditions prior to or during harvest can cause seed to discolour or germinate, reducing starch and protein and downgrading grain to feed grades. It can also affect the vigour of germination for grain kept for next season, potentially hampering future crops.

Strategic harvesting of paddocks, or areas of paddocks, with well-draining soil types while waiting for paddocks to dry out or grain moisture levels to decrease is one suggested way growers can ensure quality is retained in harvested grain.

It could also require growers to target small areas of each crop type to harvest the seed required for next season before continuing their usual program.

Jon MidwoodGRDC Southern Region Panel member Jon Midwood advocates for seed testing of grain intended for sowing to ensure quality and vigour, particularly if rain is experienced prior to or during harvest. Photo: GRDC

The GRDC Retaining Seed Fact Sheet advises ongoing monitoring of stored grain, particularly if it is subjected to adverse weather conditions at harvest.

Maintaining low temperatures, humidity and grain moisture content is critical as weather damaged seed deteriorates faster than sound seed in storage.

HRZ Ag Consulting adviser Chris Bluett said the scenario that could bring grain quality down would involve prolonged wet periods which did not allow crops to dry out.

He said prioritising harvesting of crops from a quality and pricing perspective to protect profits and next year’s seed was a safe option.

“If harvest ends up wet, the most important thing is to get the grain off as any delays can cost growers quality and money.”

Mr Bluett said controlled traffic farming allowed growers to potentially harvest again sooner, once grain moisture levels allow, as they have compacted tracks to drive on.

“Getting machinery bogged in waterlogged soils can cost you time and make a mess of your paddock,” says Mr Bluett, who is also vice chairman of the Australian Controlled Traffic Farming Association (ACTFA).

GRDC Southern Region Panel member and agricultural cropping consultant, Jon Midwood, recommends growers have weather-damaged grain tested for viability before sowing next season, to confirm accurate sowing rates of partially germinated seed and detect seed-borne diseases.

“Seed testing is a very small cost in the scheme of things and can offset future losses as a result of not sowing seed at the optimum density,” he says.

Mr Midwood said visual assessment of discolouration was not a reliable indicator of grain quality issues.

“Falling numbers often occurs without visual indication and is a sign that the germination process has started in grain,” he says.

“If growers have any concerns about the grain, or grain has been sent to a receival site and there were issues with falling numbers, then the writing is on the wall that germination has started.”

Helpful tips for maintaining seed quality are available on GRDC's Stored Grain Information Hub.

More information: Chris Bluett, 0409 336 113; John Midwood, 0400 666 434.

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